Re-norming our Government

On January 20, 2021, the day that Donald Trump leaves and Joe Biden moves into the White House, there are two principles that I believe are most important for the next four years: accountability for the assault on our democratic norms, not only for President Trump, but for enablers in the Republican Party and beyond, while seeking to reimpose and reinforce these same, fragile norms.

Unfortunately, the rhetorical phrase “but that is not as bad as what President Trump did” now covers anything short of a successful, violent overthrown of the Constitutional system of transferring power. What we saw on January 6, 2021, was four years in the making, and it could have gone differently. The system did not work, we got lucky. We need to heal, and the first step toward that is confession by elected Republican enablers telling their supporters the truth, that the election was not only a fair one, but the most parsed and adjudicated election in U.S. history. It seems to me these Republican enablers also owe their constituents an apology for misleading them.

Democrats and Progressives cannot control what Republicans will do, but we can control what we do.

We need some old school boring civics the next four years. On immigration, the House should see if it can pass a bill, and the Senate do the same. Pass a rule in the House that allows floor amendments, let the Senators make their case and then vote. Then lets have an old school conference committee see if they can bang out a deal that can pass both Houses of Congress and be signed by President Biden. The Congress needs to be reinvigorated as the Article 1 branch of government that it is, and we have to get away from omnibus legislation linked to debt limit increases for money we already spent getting jammed into must-pass legislation at 11pm, the night before we default. I know immigration is hard, as is COVID19 relief, health care, voting rights and elections, etc. If members of Congress cannot lean into hard work, then they should resign.

I am not suggesting a head in the sand Jedi mind trick approach that pretends that the last four years did not take place, I am saying that we need to hold people accountable while reinforcing our democratic system of government so that we make something worse less likely in the future. Our peaceful transfer of power string has been broken, about two and a half Century’s into our history, and we should now know that nothing inevitably continues. It will take work.

About Don Taylor
Professor of Public Policy (with appointments in Business, Nursing, Community and Family Medicine, and the Duke Clinical Research Institute), and Chair of the Academic Council at Duke University . I am one of the founding faculty of the Margolis Center for Health Policy. My research focuses on improving care for persons who are dying, and I am co-PI of a CMMI award in Community Based Palliative Care. I teach both undergrads and grad students at Duke. On twitter @donaldhtaylorjr

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